Power of the pair
Every time we develop verbal identity or write copy for our clients, we have a second writer on the case – another pair of eyes to question, challenge and help improve an early thought or first draft. Yes, it adds some extra time to the creative process, but ultimately a writer/editor pairing leads to better writing. Here’s how we do it and why it works.
Flick to the acknowledgements page of your favourite book and, among the love notes to parents and partners, you’ll often find one person heralded as the real hero or heroine behind the writing: its editor. That incisive soul who encouraged, challenged and pushed their writer towards the work we now treasure.
Editors are just as crucial to great brand writing. At The Brand Language Studio, everything we write – including strategic statements, tone of voice guidelines, and copy of all kinds – gets the benefit of at least two writerly minds. Our lead writer crafts something smart, arresting, irresistible… whatever the job requires. Then our editor helps to get an ‘even more’ in front of each of those adjectives.
But what role exactly does a brand language editor play, and how does the editing process really benefit a piece of work?
When we sit down to edit a draft, we’re always looking to:
Make sure a reader is getting what they need and want
Great brand writers step into their readers’ shoes. They’re constantly asking themselves: why will my reader care? But they can never be the reader.
Editors, on the other hand, are a reader. The first reader, in fact. When we edit a draft, we’re reading for things that trip us up or turn us off – confusing phrases, clumsy structure, a joke that doesn’t land. We’re also staying alert to writing we love so that we can encourage our writer to do more of that.
We might leave polite, constructive comments to our writer, or sometimes tweak things ourselves. But it’s always on behalf of our client’s customer, and in the name of making their experience smooth and enjoyable.
Check our writer is truly meeting the brief
As well as writing for their reader, a good writer holds the brief close as they craft their work. But it’s easy to get lost in a brief – to get swept up in creative thinking, or tangled in details, and lose sight of what it’s really asking for.
An editor stays out of the proverbial trees and keeps their sights firmly on the wood/forest. They’re detached enough from the brief that they can see which elements our writer is delivering on, and which they’re missing. It means they can ask questions that help our writer to regain their focus.
When we developed University of Greenwich’s (UOG) tone of voice, the language of the guidelines was clear, concise and engaging. But our editors spotted an opportunity to hit the brief and then some. They challenged our writer to bring UOG’s new tonal principles into the guideline’s language. The result was a guide to sounding like UOG that practised what it preached.
Challenge the writer to achieve ‘simple originality’
To create truly original work, writers need to be free. To experiment, to play, to bring their own brand of creativity to writing. But their brand should never overpower the client’s. And their creativity should never confuse the reader.
Without the emotional attachment our writers bring to their draft, an editor can spot where originality has become self-indulgence. They challenge the writer to redraft language they might be wedded to but which isn’t really working.
It could mean simplifying a sentence, clarifying a metaphor, or reworking some rhythm. But it’s our concept of ‘simple originality’ that our editors are always pushing for: writing that a reader hasn’t seen before but that absolutely gives them what they need and want, and is bang on brief.
So, next time you write copy and you’re not convinced it’s as compelling as it could be, invite someone in your team to give it an edit. Or send us an email and we’ll demonstrate exactly what we mean by the power of the pair.